Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
I received this ARC from the publisher, via Netgalley, for an honest and voluntary review. I was in no way compensated for this review.
Wintersong was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year, in the early portion. S. Jae-Jones brings us a tale that I felt was inspired in part by The Labyrinth. My childhood self was fangirling so hard over this notion and while I did see parts of The Labyrinth mixed in—and yes, imagining David Bowie as our Goblin King—I still felt a bit let down by this one in some ways. It was tragic, because I wanted this one to be THE READ of the year…read a few months earlier. It’s not that I felt like Wintersong was bad, it wasn’t really. It just wasn’t all that I had hoped for. I shall try to explain in the review to follow.
Liesl has always believed in the Goblin King, despite growing up. She knew him as a child and even considered him her friend. Then she grew up and forgot about him. Feels vaguely like Peter Pan in some respects, but not entirely. The Goblin King comes back into Liesl’s life when he takes her sister away to be his bride and Liesl has less than a month to rescue her and bring her back to the world above. For she must travel to the Underground and rescue her. So yes, very much The Labyrinth feels going on here and I loved that. Every time I read “Underground” David Bowie started singing his song in my head, sometimes I had to pause in my reading to kindly ask him to stop, but yeah, it was definitely great to have those happy memories come back.
At times I really felt like the story was dragging a bit though. The pacing wasn’t all I hoped for. It was rather slow in areas. Lots and lots of descriptions. I’m all for setting the scene, but I felt like sometimes it went too far here. When Liesl finally accomplishes her task and agrees to be the Goblin King’s bride instead, we just hit the halfway mark and I really thought were more than halfway through with just how drawn out things were. It was probably close to the 2/3 point that I started skimming some of the more drawn out things. I felt like I would never get to see what was happening with the story because of the slower pace. I feared I would DNF one of my most anticipated reads of 2017.
I really liked the combined elements of The Labyrinth that S. Jae-Jones weaved into the story. I also felt like we see a bit of Beauty and the Beast in it too. Adding that into the mix, my fangirl self was having a blast! I just wished I could’ve fully enjoyed it instead of only just so. There was so much potential here for me, but the pacing, the pacing really dragged me down. I know other readers can deal with a slower paced book, and I can too, to a point. My point was left behind in this one.
I think another part that dragged me down a bit was the emphasis on music. I’m not musically talented or literate. I don’t understand all the words associated with music and what makes it music. I felt like music was such a large factor in this story, so when it came to the musical bits of the story as well, I was once again bogged down and perhaps overwhelmed by all the “science” to it.
I did enjoy the romance though! It was the heart-warming/heart-melting sort of romance that took time to fully grow. Yes, Liesl and the Goblin King have a history of sorts, but that was many years ago and we basically watch them with a fresh start. The Goblin King was both a harsh fellow and a heartfelt one. He was passionate and cold. Much like I imagine Jareth to be had he and Sarah ever had a more noticeable romance.
The ending was one that leaves you with a wave of emotions. I felt this once before with another read from years ago. I don’t want to get into particular feeling details because of spoilers, but I did feel like I saw this one coming. With the way the characters acted with one another, I felt like I knew just what they would do. And they did. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. I am nearly certain this one is a standalone and that works for me. Despite some of my feelings toward this book as a whole, I feel like more books might not be necessary. Unless S. Jae-Jones has more untold tales for us that is!
While this book didn’t work out for me 100%, I did still enjoy it in some ways. Again, my Labyrinth fangirl had a blast with this one in a lot of ways. The romance was endearing and the characters were pretty enjoyable too. But the pacing, the pacing was just too slow for my liking. If you’re a fan of the slower paced reads that emphasize heavily on the world-building and character developments, then this one just might be the perfect read for you.
Overall Rating 3/5 stars
Wintersong releases February 7, 2017